By Danielle Bennings
Scott Block has been involved with Dingman Center throughout his college career. His first taste of entrepreneurship was doing web development for Greek Recruits, which was founded by fellow student entrepreneur, Daniel Noskin, in 2010. The pair tackled a live Q&A session together during a Pitch Dingman Competition, but the venture eventually ended. Remaining close friends, the two eventually pursued other startups. Noskin is now the founder of a company called Parallel, and Scott teamed up with Avi Eisenberger and Justin Searles to launch VentureBoard in 2012. VentureBoard began as a platform for students to better find resources on campus. Since then, it has become a fully-functioning online platform that helps students start companies, and universities better track, manage, and advise student startups.
In the fall of 2012, Scott and his co-founders took a big risk. They landed a meeting with Dingman Center Managing Director Elana Fine, and pitched her on their platform to be used for the EnTERPreneur Academy (now Fearless Founders). Scott and his team had to show how excel spreadsheets simply weren’t cutting it anymore. They outlined how the product would address the program’s pain points and were able to demo a working minimal viable product. Their hustle paid off as the Dingman Center and University of Maryland later became their first paying customer. During the summer of 2013, the VentureBoard team began building the first custom “university-side” of the platform for UMD.
Now, VentureBoard is being used in the classroom for the Fearless Founders course to facilitate building the business model canvas. It is also being used by student groups to collaborate, and the platform keeps faculty members aware of growing student startups on campus that they otherwise wouldn’t know about. Outside of UMD, VentureBoard is also being used at North Carolina State University, the University of Virginia, and with two non-university customers in Washington D.C.
Scott decided to enroll in the Fearless Founders Hatch course to continue the customer discovery process. The most beneficial aspect of the course was that the users of VentureBoard were in classroom alongside him. Scott says, “The class provided a structure that I can use when talking to other schools. It helped me to make sure I wasn’t just building something, but I was acquiring new customers along the way”.
Last month, Scott Block and VentureBoard were awarded a $500 NCIIA grant to support working on the business this summer. The VentureBoard team has been able to use the money for travel costs associated with reaching out to new schools throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Summer is the heart of their sales cycle, as universities have time in between semesters to evaluate new tools, making the next few months crucial for Scott and his team. Currently, the team is cleaning up the platform based on the feedback they have gotten from the past year. June and July will focus on showcasing these improvements in order to help attract new customers and retain old ones.
To his fellow student entrepreneurs, Scott says, “don’t hesitate to put your feet in the water and dive in pretty early on. It is really important to talk to people who are ultimately going to be your paying customers. The customer interview process taught by the Dingman Center has been very helpful!”
VentureBoard is currently looking for new universities to partner with. All inquiries can be addressed to Scott Block at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also stay connected with VentureBoard on Twitter.